Let’s talk about the illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency!
You probably know that the main source of vitamin D is right outside your house and up in the sky. The sun helps with the skin’s synthesis of vitamin D, promoting cognitive health and the growth of strong bones, to name only two of the vitamin’s functions.
But just as vitamin D can be beneficial to your health, a lack of it may lead to several health issues. According to experts, there are numerous associations between low levels of vitamin D and poor health outcomes. Here are 10 potential illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency!
1. Vitamin D deficiency and osteoporosis
One of vitamin D’s main roles is to maintain bone health. Low levels of this nutrient lead to low bone calcium, increasing the odds of fractures.
According to the Mayo Clinic, osteoporosis is one of the illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency. The disease happens when new bone doesn’t produce at the same pace as the loss of old bone.
Low levels of vitamin D decrease calcium absorption, and calcium absorption is essential for bone health. If you’re already at risk of developing osteoporosis, you may want to keep your vitamin D levels in check.
For healthy people who may not have osteoporosis, experts are still trying to find out whether supplementing with vitamin D can help.
2. Vitamin D deficiency and respiratory illnesses
Some research has shown that vitamin D supplements may help in managing or preventing COVID-19. While studies are still in their early phases, past research does show that respiratory infections are among the illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency.
One study analyzed data from 25 clinical trials that looked at the impact of the nutrient on respiratory infections, including sinusitis, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Of the 11,300 participants, experts found that people who took vitamin D were 12% less likely to develop respiratory conditions compared with people who didn’t take the vitamin. However, researchers pointed out that there were limitations. For instance, they didn’t have information on who had received a flu shot, which may have impacted their risk for respiratory illness.
One thing’s for sure, experts noted: vitamin D plays a role in our body’s ability to fight off infection, and a deficiency of this nutrient increases our susceptibility to infection. This being said, respiratory infections may be among the illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency, but we don’t have specific research results that allow experts to make a definitive conclusion.
3. Vitamin D deficiency and diabetes
Compared to other illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency, the connection between low levels of the nutrient and diabetes is clear.
Some experts believe the link has to do with the role of vitamin D in insulin resistance and sensitivity. Another theory claims the link is related to the role of vitamin D in inflammation because patients with type 2 diabetes also have higher chronic inflammation.
A recent review showed that when vitamin D is deficient, numerous cellular processes in the body start to break down, and this paves the way for the onset of diseases such as diabetes.
However, similar to other illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency, doctors say that those at risk for diabetes shouldn’t rush into starting an aggressive supplement regimen. A large, multicenter study found that it’s still unclear whether supplementing with vitamin D slashes the risk of type 2 diabetes.
4. Vitamin D deficiency and depression
If you’re familiar with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you may not be surprised to learn that depression may be among the illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency. We all know that the nickname for this nutrient is the sunshine vitamin, but that’s not just because people may get much of the vitamin they need with sun exposure.
There’s also a relationship between vitamin D and a sunny (or not-so-sunny) mood. There’s research evidence that indicates a connection between mood and vitamin D levels, where low levels of the nutrient are related to depression.
A meta-analysis included research that suggested vitamin D supplements may be effective as antidepressant medications, though more studies are required.
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression—such as feelings of emptiness or irritability, fatigue, hopelessness, appetite changes, and thoughts of suicide—it may be worth a conversation with your doctor.
Since low vitamin D levels may play a role in depression, it would be recommended to ask your provider to check your vitamin D level to see if it’s a deficiency that could be contributing to your symptoms.
Read on to discover other illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency!
5. Prostate cancer and low vitamin D
There’s some evidence that low levels of vitamin D may play a role in prostate health. One recent study found that prostate cancer may be among the illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency.
Scientists looked at vitamin D levels in 660 men ages 40 to 79 who were undergoing prostate biopsies. The link between prostate cancer and vitamin D seemed especially strong in African American men, with results indicating that African American men with vitamin D deficiency were more likely to test positive for the cancer compared to other men with normal vitamin D levels.
Though the study didn’t prove that low levels of vitamin D led to prostate cancer, it showed that the two factors may be associated and also that you may help reduce your risk of developing the disease by ensuring you get enough vitamin D.
6. Dementia and vitamin D deficiency
A study in the journal Neurology showed that older adults with moderate and severe vitamin D deficiency had a doubled risk of developing some types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. As one of the illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency, dementia involves a decline in behavior, memory, and thinking that negatively affects day-to-day life.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for up to 80% of dementia cases. The study mentioned above analyzed over 1,600 people ages 65 or older who didn’t have dementia at the beginning of the study.
Compared with participants who had vitamin D levels within healthy ranges, those with low levels of it had a 53% increased risk of developing all-cause dementia, while those with a severe deficiency had a 125% increased risk, experts observed.
Moreover, study authors found people who had low levels of vitamin D were about 70% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease specifically, and those with a severe deficiency were over 120% more likely to develop this neurodegenerative disorder.
7. Vitamin D deficiency and heart disease
Multiple studies seem to confirm that heart disease is among the illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency. According to a recent review, there’s an association between low vitamin D blood levels and cardiovascular disease and related complications.
However, science hasn’t yet clearly established that supplementation reduces these risks. The review cited studies that point to levels of vitamin D as a potential culprit for health issues related to heart disease, including high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and stroke.
8. Vitamin D deficiency and breast cancer
It’s not just prostate cancer that shares a connection with low vitamin D levels. Similar to other illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency, researchers have begun to identify some links between low levels of the nutrient and breast cancer.
A recent review indicated that most of the vitamin D studies back up the idea that vitamin D levels are inversely correlated with breast cancer risk. In other words, vitamin D deficiency was linked with a higher breast cancer risk.
Another study found that when exposed to high concentrations of vitamin D, breast cancer cells tend not to evolve into severe cancer cases. Yet, it’s important to note that, similar to other illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency, breast cancer isn’t directly influenced by this nutrient’s levels.
Here’s an oral-strip option of Vitamin D that you may want to try, but keep in mind that it’s important to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
If you liked our article on illnesses linked to vitamin D deficiency, you may also want to read Anemia in the Elderly: 4 Things You Need To Know.